Eating Out – Types of Restaurants in France
Sortir pour manger – Types de restos
What’s really a bistro? Where can you eat cheaply and well in Paris?
There are many types French restaurants for you to choose from, and where you can eat different styles of food. The term ‘restaurant’ is the generic term, and is just the beginning.
In this lesson, we’ll go over different types of restaurants and what that means, with a suggestion of a place or 2 to try it out.
12 types of places to eat in France – 12 endroits pour manger en France
- un restaurant …. a restaurant
- un bar …. a bar, a pub
- un bistro, bistrot …. a bistro, a pub
- un bouchon …. a simple restaurant from Lyon
- un boui-boui, une gargote …. a greasy spoon
- un bouillon …. an old-fashioned, cheap, one-room family-style restaurant
- une brasserie …. a brewery
- un café …. a café, a coffee shop
- une cafète, une cafétéria …. a fast-food restaurant, the French way
- une crêperie …. a crepe restaurant
- un grand restaurant …. a starred restaurant
- un routier …. a truck stop
Restaurant – Resto – Restau
A restaurant – resto or restau for short – is where French people like to go out for a special occasion, not just to eat. Expect to be served dishes that are on the fancy side, not your family-style dishes. Food is served with care in a a quiet, peaceful environment. Whether lose attention to details such as the tablecloth, the dishes and the ambiance.
Le Verjus in Paris is a good place to eat at.
Bar typically only offer drinks and cocktails. In some bars though, you may be able to order tapas like dishes, appetizers, and small plates.
Bistro – Bistrot
A bistro, or bistrot is a small restaurant, family-style, sometimes with entertainment. The tables don’t have a tablecloth or flowers, just the bare minimum in a dim cozy room. The windows are treated with a simple halfway curtain. A bistro serves a small menu list including a salade de crudités, a steak-frites, and a flan for dessert. The ambiance is really lively with waiters – rarely waitresses – dressed with an impeccable tenue de garçon de café : a white shirt with bow-tie and a long black apron, shouting your order loudly so the kitchen prepares it on the spot.
A ‘bouchon’ is a restaurant in Lyon serving lots of sausage dishes, pork, heavy sauces and offal menus. They are on the cheap side and truly delicious.
Boui-boui – bouiboui, gargote
Un boui-boui or une gargote is a restaurant serving pretty bad food.
Despite its name – wink-wink – Le Boui Boui in the 2nd arrondissement in Paris is delicious.
A ‘bouillon’ is an old-fashioned simple place where you order simple and cheap dishes, sitting at a long table next to the clients who came just before you. They are endangered. It’s noisy and fun to be there. Go for the experience.
Le Bouillon Chartier is a famous one in Paris.
A brasserie-restaurant is a bustling café that serves traditional good meals, but no fancy dishes. It’s a more relaxed environment than a restaurant. Brasseries – breweries – used to mainly serve beer and choucroute, a sauerkraut dish complete with sausages, boiled meats and spices. They used to actually brew beer there, hence the name brasserie. Not anymore. Most of them have become restaurant only. They are the middle ground between a bistro and a restaurant. The décor is often a golden retro art nouveau style, just like when they first became popular at the turn of the 20th century.
You’ll be able to eat sandwiches – your traditional jambon-beurre (ham and cheese sandwich even though it means ‘ham-butter’) can be delicious in your local café. The baguette is fresh and the meat often comes from the nearby charcuterie. It’s made to order, right then and there. It’s the original French fast food. The old-fashioned name for a sandwich is a casse-croûte, which means ‘break-crust’.
A crêperie is a small restaurant serving a variety of savory and sweet crêpes. Crêpes originated in Brittany and have conquered the whole world. They are the French version of the pancake, although much thinner and larger. They are stuffed with all kinds of delicious foods. They come fast and are quite cheap.
Breizh Café is a good one in Paris.
Cafète – Cafétéria
It’s super convenient and quick to eat in a cafeteria. The food isn’t made on site, but it’s cheap and fast to eat, with a menu for everyone.
Flunch is a chain that started in the ’70s. Flunch restaurants are all over France and they are our fast food, the French way.
Flunch Beaubourg is located right down town Paris and is easy if you don’t have too much time and want to eat something decent.
A good routier is where you want to go and eat to experience the real French culture. The word routier is short for ‘restaurant routier’ (“roader”). It’s a truck stop, the French way. Routiers offer a simple menu mainly to blue-collar workers – and me – for lunch and sometimes dinner. If you are lucky, you’ll get the best 3-course meal in a rambunctious atmosphere that will leave your body and your soul totally satisfied. A typical meal often includes a plate of charcuterie, a roast of some sort with potato purée and a mousse au chocolat. Two bottles of house wine are generally sitting there in the middle of the 8-people table you are going to share. Oh yes, I forgot to say that you don’t get to pick who you’re eating with. And that’s part of the fun.
I really like Les Marches in Paris.
Grands restaurants are starred restaurants and serve Haute Gastronomie food. They are also called restaurants gastronomiques. Chefs are watched closely and compete to get – and keep – the Michelin or Gault et Millaut guides rating that will bring them fame and business. Paul Bocuse – also known as the ‘Lion of Lyon’ – is probably the most popular grand chef cuisinier français.
Things to know – À savoir
A few things to remember about eating out in France:
- la gastronomie is everything that has to do with haute cuisine, fancy meals served starred chefs. gastronomique is the adjective.
- la bistronomie is the higher end of bistro foods. It’s actually quite fancy, but the restaurants aren’t starred. It can be a great opportunity to savor affordable and delicious dishes. bistronomique is the adjective,
- Vegetarians – There are more and more vegetarian restaurants in France, but the norm is still very much ‘Surf and Turf’. However, many restaurants offer vegetarian or vegan dishes. Make sure you know what you are ordering.
- Coffee will be served after dessert, even if you ask to have yours with dessert, they might say Yes, but will likely forget and bring it to you at the end of the meal.
- There is no need to tip in France. The price already reflects a 15% service fee. So, although an extra tip is always welcome, it is not necessary. Most French people don’t tip or don’t tip too much.
- So, there is no need to tip in France. The tip is included in the check. As a result, the waiter isn’t going to tell you his name and the waitress isn’t necessarily going to come regularly to check on your food. It’s often perceived as being rude. It’s only part of the culture.
Exo – Practice
Do you know the difference between un bistro and une brasserie? How about what they serve in a bouchon? Do you think you could go a a routier and eat well despite the price? Take this quiz that goes over different types of restaurants and what that means, with a suggestion of a place or 2 to try it out.
In this quiz, I’m asking you to fill in the blanks with the right type of restaurant.
Banque des mots – Words Bank
un bar, un bistro ou bistrot, un bouchon, un boui-boui ou une gargote, un bouillon, une brasserie, un café, une cafète ou une cafétéria, une crêperie, un grand restaurant, un restaurant, un routier
- a place to celebrate a big event and to be awed by exquisite food that’s impossible to replicate – un endroit où fêter un grand évènement pour être transporté.e par une nourriture exquise et impossible à refaire est _____.
- a place to eat – un endroit où manger est _____.
- a place where one can enjoy a delicious ham-and-cheese sandwich – un endroit où on peut déguster un délicieux jambon-beurre est _____.
- a place where mainly drinks are served – un lieu où on consomme surtout des boissons est _____.
- a restaurant that is part of a fast-food chain – un restaurant faisant partie d’une chaîne de restauration rapide est _____.
- a simple and traditional restaurant in France – un restaurant modeste et traditionnel en France est _____.
- a traditional Lyon restaurant, serving pork, heavy sauces and offal – un restaurant traditionnel lyonnais, servant du porc, des sauces lourdes et des abats est _____.
- a greasy spoon not serving the best food – un resto ne servant pas la meilleure nourriture est _____.
- a restaurant where one can eat a 3-course meal with local blue-collar workers – un resto où manger un repas complet avec les ouvriers du coin est _____.
- a restaurant where beer was brewed, originally – un resto où on brassait la bière, à l’origine est _____.
- a restaurant where one can eat just crepes, from the beginning to the end of the meal – un resto où on peut ne manger que des crêpes, du début à la fin du repas est _____.
- a type of restaurant that has almost disappeared, cheap and out of date – un resto presque disparu, bon marché et suranné est _____.
Réponses – Answers
- a place to celebrate a big event and to be awed by exquisite food that’s impossible to replicate – un endroit où fêter un grand évènement pour être transporté.e par une nourriture exquise et impossible à refaire est un grand restaurant.
- a place to eat – un endroit où manger est un restaurant.
- a place where one can enjoy a delicious ham-and-cheese sandwich – un endroit où on peut déguster un délicieux jambon-beurre est un café.
- a place where mainly drinks are served – un lieu où on consomme surtout des boissons est un bar.
- a restaurant that is part of a fast-food chain – un restaurant faisant partie d’une chaîne de restauration rapide est une cafète.
- a simple and traditional restaurant in France – un restaurant modeste et traditionnel en France est un bistro.
- a traditional Lyon restaurant, serving pork, heavy sauces and offal – un restaurant traditionnel lyonnais, servant du porc, des sauces lourdes et des abats est un bouchon.
- a greasy spoon not serving the best food – un resto ne servant pas la meilleure nourriture est un boui-boui.
- a restaurant where one can eat a 3-course meal with local blue-collar workers – un resto où manger un repas complet avec les ouvriers du coin est un routier.
- a restaurant where beer was brewed, originally – un resto où on brassait la bière, à l’origine est une brasserie.
- a restaurant where one can eat just crepes, from the beginning to the end of the meal – un resto où on peut ne manger que des crêpes, du début à la fin du repas est une crêperie.
- a type of restaurant that has almost disappeared, cheap and out of date – un resto presque disparu, bon marché et suranné est un bouillon.
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